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Clarence Lee '57 Designs 2008 Summer Olympics Postage Stamp

Clarence Lee ’57 has put his own personal stamp on the 2008 summer Olympics with his design of the United States Postal Service’s commemorative stamp—his third such venture for the USPS.

Lee, who was an art history major at Pomona, was first approached by the USPS in 1992 to design a Chinese Lunar New Year stamp for the Year of the Rooster. “It was to be just one stamp,” says Lee, “but the financial success of that stamp made the postal service develop all 12 Lunar New Year stamps.” Lee was called on again in 1994 to design a joint issue stamp from the United States and China; the stamp featured a crane, an endangered species in both countries.

The Olympic stamp was a collaboration for Lee, his design company’s staff, illustrator Katie Doka and art director Carl Hermann. “I was directly involved with selection of colors; refinement of the artwork; and selection, size and position of type,” says Lee. “[I] was [also] in close contact with Carl Hermann and the USPS for their comments and final approval.”

Many types of athletes were considered for the central image, but ultimately, “the leaping gymnast worked well in the horizontal shape of the stamp and was positive and uplifting.”

The stamp has yet to be released but Lee is hazarding a guess that it will coincide with the opening of the Olympics on 08/08/08.

Lee transferred to Yale after his first two years at Pomona, but Pomona remains close to his heart. Renowned local artist and Scripps professor Millard Sheets was an early influence during Lee’s time at Pomona. “I saw some of his calendar watercolors from Pan Am airways and thought I could follow in his success,” recalls Lee. “I tried to fit his art classes into my Pomona courses, but it was not meant to be.” After graduating Yale, Lee worked on the East Coast for a few years, but returned to his home state of Hawaii where he established his own design firm in 1966.

Over the years, Lee has been a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the KOA Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (2001) and a Living Treasure in Hawai’i award (2000). Lee recently retired after selling his firm to a Japanese corporation.

Lee often returns to Pomona for reunions, including his 50th reunion last year, and he still counts his Pomona roommate Peter Newman ’57 and Peter’s wife Mary ’59 as close friends and traveling partners.